Nippon Life Insurance Co. and Harris Associates L.P., two major shareholders of Olympus Corp., asked the Japanese firm to respond to investor concerns about takeover payments that its fired CEO revealed, sending its stock price plunging 47 percent.
Nippon Life, the largest shareholder of Olympus, asked the company to take “prompt” action to address investor distrust, Akira Tsuzuki, a spokesman for the life insurer, said Thursday.
Olympus has lost more than $4 billion of its market value in the five trading days since CEO Michael C. Woodford was fired. Following his dismissal, Woodford made public a PricewaterhouseCoopers report that said Olympus may face regulatory and legal scrutiny due to payments made to advisers in the 2008 acquisition of Gyrus Group PLC.
Harris Associates, a major U.S. investment company and the seventh-largest shareholder of Olympus, sent a letter Thursday to the company’s board and to the Tokyo Stock Exchange seeking an independent probe into its 2008 acquisitions, according to David Herro, a senior investment officer.
Olympus, which was founded 92 years ago, said Wednesday it paid $687 million (¥52.8 billion) in fees to advisers over its $2 billion purchase of Gyrus Group, almost double the ¥30 billion Chairman Tsuyoshi Kikukawa disclosed a day earlier.
AXAM Investments Ltd., which is incorporated in the Cayman Islands and was one of the two advisers that received the fees, was removed from the local registry in June 2010 over its nonpayment of license fees, according to the PricewaterhouseCoopers report. The report said it couldn’t establish who the owners of AXAM Investments were.
Merger and acquisition advisory fees usually range from 1 to 5 percent, two people with knowledge of such deals said. The fees Olympus shelled out to the two advisers were more than a third of the $2 billion purchase price.
“We were unable to confirm that there has been improper conduct, however, given the sums of money involved and some of the unusual decisions that have been made (improper conduct) cannot be ruled out,” the PricewaterhouseCoopers report says.
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